Essex rejects call to condemn China

CONSERVATIVES today blocked calls to try and use Essex County Council's relationship with the Chinese authorities to influence the country's oppressive regulations for domestic and foreign journalists.

By Roddy Ashworth

CONSERVATIVES today blocked calls to try and use Essex County Council's relationship with the Chinese authorities to influence the country's oppressive regulations for domestic and foreign journalists.

And the Tories said the reason the proposal was rejected was that it would be neither appropriate or effective for a body such as the council to make the call.

The Conservatives declined to adopt part of a Liberal Democrat sponsored motion asking for the council to use its long standing links with Jiangsu Province in China to push for increased media freedom and the release of imprisoned writers and journalists.


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Speaking about the result, which was voted on at a meeting of full council at County Hall in Chelmsford, Mike Mackrory, Lib Dem deputy leader, said: “I am greatly saddened by the Conservatives' lack of courage in standing up for journalists who are trying to report accurately on the many issues originating from China that affect residents here at home.

“We are aware of many journalists currently in prison in China, for daring to express views that the Chinese authorities don't want to see in the media.”

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The council did agree to tackle some human rights issues in China through its existing business and education links, but the Tories said there was little point in condemning the country's Government over its media restrictions.

After the meeting Lord Hanningfield, leader of the council, said: “I totally abhor any mistreatment of journalists in China, but it is a question of how we achieve the right result.

“It is much better for our Government to put pressure on their Government in the right ways rather than this council passing motions like the one the Lib Dems put forward which would be ignored.

“There is no point in passing a motion for the sake of it - the Lib Dems sometimes like motions that express strong feelings, even if they have no effect.

“If you condemn the Chinese, they just won't take any notice of you. I'd rather carry on working behind the scenes and influence public opinion with our growing contacts with the people, rather than the Government, of China.”

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